When I first became a principal at Kemp Elementary, I wanted to invest my time creating a positive culture for our community. I soon got sucked into the standardized testing world. The focus became test scores and it worried me. I reached out to a former professor, Dr. Thomas Sergiovanni, and shared my concerns. He quickly responded, sending me articles and books that all stressed the importance of a strong culture in a school community. He reminded me of what was really important, moral leadership and leading from the heart, and it has left a lasting impact.
Fifteen or so years later as I now prepare to open a new school, I wish I could reach out to my friend and mentor once again. I know he would be excited about the endless possibilities and eager to challenge my thinking.
So, I have pulled those same articles out of the file and started reading them again.
In his article, “Perspectives on School Leadership: Taking Another Look” he poses this challenge:
“Could you stand up in front of your faculty and say ‘Well folks, one of the things I’m going to ask is that you don’t follow me’? I think it’s about the healthiest statement you can make, so I suggest you try it, if you really mean it. Of course you’ll need to put the next sentence in as well: ‘Don’t follow me, but instead meet your obligations to our shared sense of purpose and to your responsibilities.’”
And there it is. People don’t follow a leader. People follow a shared sense of purpose: core values, a moral imperative. That is what impacts a school culture.
Dr. Sergiovanni continued his proposition by challenging leaders to have posters all over the building to publicly share what we are about, what we truly believe. Posters that state: “Five promises we make to our students” “Five promises students make to us” “Five promises we make to each other” “Five examples of excellent student work”. And the list continues...
When our shared promises and commitments are displayed for everyone to see, we announce our values and purpose, and we are all held accountable to those commitments.
What will the posters look like at Pecan Trail? I don’t know, but I am excited to find out.